“Recovery work should not put you in the recovery room,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England. “Flood recovery work encompasses a wide range of safety and health hazards, which can be minimized by knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment.”
Cleanup work can involve restoring electricity, communications, water and sewer services; demolition work; removal of floodwater from structures; entry into flooded areas; cleaning up debris; tree-trimming; structural repair; roadway and bridge repair; use of cranes, aerial lifts and other heavy equipment; hazardous waste operations and emergency response activities; and repair of dams and levees.
Inherent hazards may include illness from exposure to contaminated water or food; exposure or heat stress; downed electrical wires; carbon monoxide and electrical hazards from portable generators; fall and struck-by hazards from tree-trimming or working at heights; being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces; burns; lacerations; musculoskeletal injuries; being struck by traffic or heavy equipment; and drowning from being caught in moving water or while removing water from flooded structures.
Protective measures should involve evaluating the work area for all hazards; task-specific hazard exposure monitoring; utilizing engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards; using personal protective equipment; assuming all power lines are live; following proper hygiene procedures; using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment correctly; and utilizing traffic work zones.
OSHA maintains a comprehensive Web site on keeping disaster site workers safe during cleanup and recovery operations: http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/flood-tornado-recovery.html. It contains fact sheets, concise “quick cards,” frequently asked questions, safety and health guides and information, public service announcements in English and Spanish and links to information from other sources.